Suspect Hospitalized After Gunfire in Compton

Suspect Hospitalized After Gunfire in Compton
By Tonya Alanez, Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein
Times Staff Writers

12:42 PM PDT, May 9, 2005

A wild chase in Compton this morning ended after 10 Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies delivered a fusillade of gunfire, wounding the suspect, striking a deputy and spraying at least 11 rounds into neighboring homes.

The suspect, shot in the sport utility vehicle, was identified as Winston “Junior” Hayes, 44. He was in stable condition at a hospital.

Hayes did not have a gun and no weapon was found when he was arrested, according to the Sheriff’s Department. The shootings — 30 bullet holes were apparent in Hayes’ vehicle alone — shocked the neighborhood.

Sheriff Lee Baca, at a press conference today, said his department is intensively reviewing the circumstances of the shooting, particularly the actions of his officers. Baca said investigators believe his deputy was struck by fire from fellow deputies.

“The key question: What was the triggering point for the shooting,” Baca said.

Officials involved include several from the Office of Independent Review, the sheriff’s special investigative unit. Baca said policy allows his officers to shoot “in defense of their lives, or the lives of citizens.”

Baca said he will focus on tactics and “the intensity level of the shooting.”

Neighbors were upset about the intense gunfire. Investigators were carefully poring over the scene, the 600 block of South Butler in Compton. They methodically numbered gunshots, with one marker reading “#87.”

“They should be more careful when they do stuff. They could kill an innocent person,” said Doris Bradford, 73, who lives in a home near the shooting site.

Today she shook her head when she showed where a bullet pierced the front wall of her home, near a picture window.

At least 11 bullets struck the homes of five people, according to an informal tally at noon today.

Robertino Gregorio, who lives in a second-floor apartment about a block away on Myrrh Street, said her family was roused from sleep by the sound of gunfire. Her husband, Pedro Mendes, went to the bedroom window to look. His 5-year-old son was asleep in the room.

Suddenly, two bullet holes pierced the window about eight inches from his head, Gregorio said.

She showed how the bullets pierced the window, closet doors, the back wall of the closet, and passed through one hallway wall, where it lodged in a kitchen cabinet above the refrigerator.

Sheriff’s investigators took the spent bullet, Gregorio said. No residents appeared to have been physically injured.

Neighbors said Hayes was known in the area, where he had gone to school and done odd jobs. Baca said today’s incident began when neighbors called to complain that Hayes was driving up and down streets, playing his radio loudly.

“It’s likely he was under the influence because of the unusual circumstances that brought him to our attention,” Baca said. “He had been driving around the area for about four hours, so he could have been under the influence.”

Baca said Hayes had a record of narcotics violations.

The sheriff pointed out that Hayes’ vehicle “wasn’t really moving when it was shot at. What were those conditions surrounding the vehicle at the time it was stopped.”

Videotape of the incident shows the vehicle moving slowly, but Baca said it “did not start to move after the shooting started.”

Investigators are also considering a phenomenon know as “chain of fire,” in which officers in a situation involving potential use of deadly force hear gunfire and respond by firing their weapons.

“We initially thought they were responding to what could have been some gang-related gunfire,” Baca said. “That’s what started this whole thing. I think there was an intensity level here.

“I have no idea one way or the other as to what the officers were thinking at the time,” the sheriff said.

Times staff writer John Spano handled rewrite.

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